Despite currently playing in the fourth tier of the football pyramid, Exeter City have spent the majority of their history in the third.
The division has had many different names, ranging from the traditional Division Three, to League One and even a brief spell when it was called Division Two. City has spent 48 seasons playing in these divisions, more than any team not to reach a higher level.
After plying their trade in the Southern League for just over a decade, the Grecians were invited by the Football League to become founder members of the Third Division in 1920. The first season proved difficult for the Grecians, as they finished 19th out of 22. City struggled financially during the next few years, having to sell key players such as Dick Pym to balance the books.
Exeter became more of a force in the early 1930s, culminating Grecian’s highest Football League position in their history, second in 1932/33. However, there was only one promotion spot from the division at the time, so City remained in the league.
City were placed in Division Four in 1958 due to the Football League’s reorganisation, where they remained until 1964, when Jack Edwards led Exeter to their first promotion, finishing fourth which was an automatic promotion spot in a time before the playoffs. The Grecians could only last for two seasons in the Third Tier, finishing 22nd in 1966.
City achieved promotion again in 1976/77 after 11 years in Division Four. This stint in the Third Tier featured a purple patch for the Grecians, where, led by Brian Godfrey, they finished in the top half of the table for three consecutive seasons. But, after finishing 19th in 1982/83. Brian resigned and new player-manager Gerry Francis could only manage six victories in the following season, meaning City finished bottom.
Terry Cooper led the next charge for the Third Division, this time winning the Fourth Division by 10 points, in City’s finest league campaign. Terry then guided City to a respectable 16th in 1990/91, before leaving for fellow Third Division side Birmingham City. Alan Ball took over as the Grecians’ manager and his reign saw City flirt with danger for two seasons before succumbing to relegation in 1994.
It was another 15 years before Exeter were to host Third Division football again. Paul Tisdale led City to back-to-back promotions from the Conference to League One between 2007 and 2009. Ryan Harley’s goal against Huddersfield kept City up on the final day of the season in 2010 before the club achieved their highest post-war finish: eighth, only a point outside of the play-off positions. This success didn’t continue as Exeter were relegated the subsequent season, following the loss of a number of key players.